Traffic – Smiling Phases (Island, 1991)
Traffic had a good run from 1967-74 as one of the premier psychedelic rock bands that England produced. Mixing up jazz, r&b, and rock and roll, they kept their music fresh and still managed to score some hits in the process despite being a fairly experimental group for their time. Although their original albums are all valuable for the most part, this collection is an excellent two-disc set of both radio hits and key album tracks and make for the definitive overview of the group.
Some of their early pop hits like “Paper Sun” and the top ten hit “Dear Mr. Fantasy” are represented on the first disc. Then after Dave Mason left the group, they took a more experimental bent, which is documented on the second disc of the collection. Some of the longer, more improvisational songs allowed the band, one of the most instrumentally talented in rock music, to really stretch out and explore the songs. Examples of this are the lengthy “John Barleycorn Must Die” and the jazzy “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.”
This collection is well designed and flows well and the liner notes are adequate, providing a basic history of the band and a few pictures. This collection fits in well with some of the excellent two CD collections that Rhino has made over the past decade and is recommended to psychedelic rock and jazz-fusion fans.
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